As a parent or caregiver, you may be wondering how to talk to your children about COVID-19 (the coronavirus). It is very important to give them correct information without causing fear.
Here are some points to follow:
- Be calm and reassuring. If you are upset or anxious, take some time to calm down before speaking with them.
- Find out what your children already know. Follow their lead.
- Give children honest and accurate information in language they can understand.
- Use The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website if you don't know the answer to their questions.
- Avoid blaming any group of people or communities for the virus. Diseases can make anyone sick.
- Limit your children's access to the news. Too much information can make anxiety worse.
- A daily check-in with children may help limit the amount of time spent talking about the virus. Use this time to answer questions and give them new information.
Help your child feel in control
- Let your children know that worrying about safety is your job as a grownup. Their job is to do their part to help keep the virus from spreading by following safety instructions:
- Wash hands often and for 20 seconds.
- Keep space between themselves and other people.
- Cough and sneeze into their elbows, not their hands.
- Follow any new directions from doctors and scientists who are learning more every day.
- Tell children about the things people are doing to keep everyone healthy: avoiding large groups of people, washing hands, closing schools, etc.
- Remind the children that it is not punishment that they cannot play with their friends or do some activities they normally do.
- "We need to follow the rules to be safe and keep others safe."
- "We can work together to make this time fun."
Schools are closed because of COVID-19. Do your best to keep children in a routine at home.
- Get up and go to bed at the same time.
- Keep meal times and snack times the same every day.
- It may be helpful to plan your routine based on your child's typical school day.
- Reading, math, outside play, lunch, music time, art, free play, quiet time, etc.
- Ask your child's teacher how much time is recommended to spend on schoolwork each day.
- Schedule time for exercise every day.
- Outside: Ride bikes or scooters, take a walk or hike, play ball, or other games.
- Inside: Jumping jacks, obstacle course, online yoga or exercise videos.
- Limit recreational screen time to 2 hours a day or less. Schedule it into the routine so it has a beginning and end time.
- Set goals to stay motivated.
Take care of yourself
Here are some self-care tips:
- Parents and caregivers need breaks, too! Schedule time in the day to do something you enjoy.
- Deep breathing is calming. Watch your stomach rise as you take in a slow, deep breath. Slowly breathe out all the air through your mouth. Repeat at least 5 times.
- Be positive and gentle with yourself. You can handle difficult situations. This is a stressful time to be a parent. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can.
More places to find information
- KidsHealth: Coronavirus (COVID-19): How to talk to your child
- Child Mind Institute: Talking to kids about the Coronavirus
- New York Times Parenting: How to talk to kids about Coronavirus
- National Public Radio: Just for kids: A comic exploring the new Coronavirus
- Child Trends: Resources for supporting children's emotional well-being during the COVID-19 pandemic
All rights reserved - Gundersen Health System Patient Education This information is meant to inform and educate our patients. It supports the care you receive from your health care team. It does not replace medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment. Talk to your doctor or health care team before starting any new treatment. Last revised 03/18/2020 PE 002824
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